Jesu, heart’s light,
Jesu, maid’s son,
What was the feast followed the night
Thou hadst glory of this nun? ―
Feast of the one woman without stain.
For so conceivèd, so to conceive thee is done;
But here was heart-throe, birth of a brain,
Word, that heard and kept thee and uttered thee outright.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




In the Spiritual Exercises each exercise ends with a colloquy: The Colloquy is made, properly speaking, as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant to his master; now asking some grace, now blaming oneself for some misdeed, now communicating one’s affairs, and asking advice in them. (St. Ignatius of Loyola 1522-24)

The wreck of Deutschland have many similarities with the form of Loyolas Spiritual Exercises. Stanza 30 can be seen as such an end. It has the similar personal approach as the above directions for a conversation with Christ.

In this private conversation Father Hopkins speaks to Christ about the feast that was to come the next day: December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The immaculate conception was first pronounced on the constitution Ineffabilis Deus in 1854: We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. (Pius IX 1854)

The feast is celebrated since early medieval times and is now celebrated by the whole Catholic Church on the eight of December. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the reason for this feast like this. Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son “who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties.” Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she “shows the way” (hodigitria), and is herself “the Sign” of the way (ccc 2674)

McChesney writes about the last lines of this stanza: In a mystical sense this nun was another Mary who by the quality of her death “uttered” (showed forth, gave birth to) Christ in the world.



During lent I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent. Click here to get to the first stanza.